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Quality sleep is essential for a robust immune system and overall good health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults ages 18 and older get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Yet, although it varies across the country, up to 49% of U.S. adults in some areas report routinely getting less than that.

The negative health effects of poor sleep have fueled the rise of over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids and their natural alternatives, such as melatonin and cannabidiol (CBD).

This article highlights the benefits and potential downsides of both melatonin and CBD and explains which of these natural products may support a better night’s sleep.

Both melatonin and CBD are natural compounds that your body produces, but they have slightly different functions.


For instance, melatonin is a hormone produced predominantly by the pineal gland in your brain, but it’s also found in other tissues, such as your eyes, gut, and bone marrow.

Normal melatonin production is influenced by the time of day. Light suppresses melatonin levels in your body, but melatonin production is ramped up at night, with levels peaking at around 2 a.m. for most people.

There is evidence that melatonin may be a “master synchronizer,” synchronizing the rhythms of various circadian systems in the body, such as temperature regulation and sleep-wake cycles.


CBD is one of the two main endocannabinoids found in your body, the other being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Your body naturally produces endocannabinoids like CBD and THC. These differ from exogenous cannabinoids, which are extracted from sativa and indica species of the cannabis or hemp plant.

CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis and hemp plants, which means it does not induce a “high” feeling as THC does.

Cannabinoids, including CBD, have been shown to influence neurochemical processes related to mood, anxiety, and sleep-wake cycles in the body.

As with melatonin, CBD production is sensitive to changes in light. Thus, these compounds are also referred to as phytocannabinoids.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

Sleep problems may be due to diagnosed sleep disorders, or they may be related to anxiety, depression, night-shift work, or other causes.

Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that disrupt the ability to sleep well on a regular basis, affecting quality of life and potentially increasing the risk of developing some chronic diseases.

Here’s what we know about the potential roles of melatonin and CBD for sleep.


There is evidence that melatonin production in the body can become disrupted, which in turn impairs sleep-wake cycles.

Melatonin supplementation can improve sleep quality in people both inside and outside of hospital settings by inducing sleepiness and reducing the time it takes to fall asleep — also called the sleep onset latency period.

A randomized controlled trial of 203 people admitted to hospital intensive care units found that, compared to the placebo group, those who supplemented with an oral dose of 10 milligrams (mg) of melatonin for 7 consecutive nights reported improved sleep quality.

Other research indicates that melatonin supplementation may be effective for people with sleep issues related to jet lag, shift work, and circadian rhythm disorders. It may even benefit children with neurological disorders.

Melatonin has also been shown to offer some benefits for improved sleep quality in children with delayed sleep phase syndrome.

However, it’s important to note that some uses for melatonin have little scientific backing. It’s possible that only people with diminished natural production of melatonin may benefit from taking melatonin supplements.

Learn more about using melatonin for sleep.


Research into whether CBD may support restful sleep offers promising findings.

A clinical trial including 33 people with Parkinson’s disease and REM sleep behavior disorder found that those who supplemented with 300 mg of CBD experienced improved sleep satisfaction after a few weeks compared with the placebo group.

In case series research focused on people with conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety, and schizophrenia, the calming effect of CBD was associated with improved sleep scores and reduced anxiety in 79% of participants.

A 2019 review concluded that CBD may improve sleep by reducing sleep disturbances and the time it takes to fall asleep.

Learn more about using CBD for sleep.

While melatonin supplements are generally safe and well tolerated, some research suggests that taking melatonin during the day — when your body does not naturally produce it — can lead to fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

Melatonin supplements may be beneficial for people who work night shifts and need to sleep during the day, but they may be harmful to those who need to stay awake and drive during the day.

The research on CBD and sleep quality is in its infancy, which means that the long-term safety and effects of CBD for sleep are not fully understood.

On the other hand, cannabis research suggests that, with repeated exposure to cannabis and THC, people can develop a tolerance and need higher doses over time. And withdrawal after long-term use of cannabis is associated with sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality.

However, discontinuing use of CBD alone doesn’t seem to produce withdrawals.

Although it is not clear that these effects may occur with the long-term use of CBD products themselves, more research is warranted.

Because of its extensive scientific support, lack of known withdrawal effects, and benefits for improved sleep quality in some people, melatonin may be a better natural sleep aid than CBD.

However, don’t discredit the great potential for benefits of using CBD if you live with mental health conditions or a neurodegenerative condition such as Parkinson’s disease. Longer-term studies are needed to support its safety, though.

Regardless of these findings, both melatonin and CBD are OTC supplements, and it’s possible to overuse or misuse them. Always consult a healthcare professional before taking a new supplement.

What is it?a natural hormone that regulates circadian function, such as sleep-wake cycles• a natural compound that influences mood, anxiety, and sleep-wake cycles
• products and supplements derived from cannabis or hemp plants.
Pros of using it for sleep• can reduce the time needed to fall asleep and improve sleep quality
• supported by a large body of research
• not linked to undesirable side effects
• available OTC
• may support restful sleep, especially by reducing anxiety
• not linked to serious side effects
• may be particularly helpful for people with mental health conditions
Cons of using it for sleep• may not be helpful unless you have a sleep disorder affecting natural melatonin production
• possible to overuse or misuse, which can lead to health problems
• lacks a strong body of research
• may be difficult to access in some locations due to legal obstacles
• CBD products are not subject to standard regulation
• possible to overuse or misuse, which can lead to health problems

Whether or not a healthcare professional has recommended melatonin or CBD to improve your quality of sleep, you may want to try implementing some of these sleep hygiene practices to help you get a good night’s rest:

  • Enjoy dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime. Avoid lying down shortly after eating, as this may cause reflux and discomfort.
  • Discontinue screen time — including use of phones, tablets, and televisions — at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that lets your body know it’s time to wind down. Yours may include taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing bedtime yoga.
  • Limit caffeine and nicotine use, especially in the afternoons and evenings.
  • Avoid evening naps. If you must take naps, it’s best to limit them to 20 minutes before 2 p.m.
  • Create a comfortable environment that is conducive to sleep, such as by dimming the lights.

Need a hub for evidence-based routines and tips to support better sleep?

Then Healthline Sleep is your partner in (finally) getting the sleep of your dreams. Check it out here.

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Quality sleep is essential for good health, but sleep disturbances are common in both adults and children.

Melatonin and CBD are compounds that your body naturally produces to help regulate sleep, but they are also available as OTC supplements.

Melatonin has been found to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep for adults and children, both inside and outside of hospital settings, and it may offer greater benefits than CBD because it has extensive scientific backing. However, results may vary, and it may only help those with compromised melatonin production.

CBD holds great potential for improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety in people with mental health and neurodegenerative disorders, but it lacks long-term research.

As with any supplement, be sure to consult a healthcare professional before trying either melatonin or CBD for sleep support.